Sunday, 3 June 2012

Shetland - Furthest North

Strangely appropriate for the 100th post as well.

We'd made a poor choice of accommodation in Unst so up bright and early and eager to be off despite the grim weather ( and trying to forget that we had to spend a second night there!).

The plan was to spend the morning driving around as many old sites as we could and then head to the RSPB bird sanctuary at Hermaness for a spot of puffin spotting. By then we were hoping the weather might have cleared a little.

 First off then was the Stone of Gunnister. A strange flat stone with a series of obviously man made scooped depressions around the edge.

On next to a large standing stone. I don't often include people but this gives a nice idea of size and also just how nasty the weather was!

We weren't disposed to linger I'm afraid and it was on to the ruins of the broch at Underhoull. After Mousa this was a bit of an anticlimax, being largely ruined but an imposing construction nonetheless.
Underhoull has a wealth of remains and we braved the wind and rain to walk down to the lowest building, a Viking house. This is now down to foundation level but you can see the layout of the rooms and the  entrance to the souterrain. No we didn't attempt to go in. I was in more of  a hurry to return to the car and escape from the wind.

Wonderful views though across the bay and out to sea.

Unable to delay any longer so off to Hermaness and the puffins. It is a long walk from the car park to the cliffs where the birds nest nut the RSPB has boarded 90% of it so it is an easy walk.

And puffins we saw! Not that many but they were remarkably unafraid and came to within a couple of feet of where we were sitting. They are incredibly entertaining to watch.

 The established pairs were engaged in the mating ritual of rubbing beaks and doing their best to ignore the attempted interruptions of single puffins looking for a mate.

I do need to work on my bird photography skills. This was the best shot of the lot and it still isn't good.

Still had a little time to kill before we had to return to our accommodation so we took the car to the furthest point of the island which is accessible by road to see the remains of a wheelhouse.

Wheelhouses are so named for the rooms arranged around a central communal space and seem to be unique to Shetland and the Hebrides. This one is now being lost to the elements. Half of it has gone over the cliff edge already.

If we thought the weather had been bad before, it was nothing compared to this site. The wind was coming straight from the arctic and so strong it was hard to stand against it. The rain was being literally thrown at us. The conditions were so harsh that it was too much even for the local sheep who are extremely hardy and we were greeted by the sad site of a ewe standing guard over the frozen body of her dead lamb.

By now we'd had enough and stopped off at Foords Chocolates  for a hot drink and a piece of cake. Thoroughly recommended. The Belgian chocolate cake was magnificent and a fitting end to the day.
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